EPSRC outlines details of multidisciplinary centres for 2,000 PhD students

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has selected 44 new centres to share a ?250 million injection into postgraduate science education.

The doctoral training centres (DTCs), based at universities across the country, will provide 2000 extra science and engineering PhDs over the next five years.

The DTC will focus on what science minister Paul Drayson believes are the ’some of the biggest problems facing Britain’, such as climate change and energy. The courses will aim to teach students the ability to work more effectively with scientists from a wider range of disciplines.

’These centres are not just about building expertise and talent within our PhD scientists; they’re about building a network of communities to tackle the key challenges that this country faces,’ Drayson said at the programme’s official launch.

Chemistry in the mix
Chemistry is involved in 18 of the new DTCs, including those that focus on chemical synthesis, clean energy, carbon capture, nuclear fuels, sustainability and nanotechnology.

Bristol University’s new chemical synthesis DTC, for instance, will train synthetic chemists to use the full breadth of synthesis techniques available through a series of lab-based sabbaticals in different research groups under different supervisors.

Kevin Booker-Milburn, director of the chemical synthesis DTC, says industry has already pledged ’substantial amounts of money’ to fund extra studentships within the programme.

’This is fantastic news for Bristol University and the new programme will help us to break the one PhD student, one supervisor, one project model and train a generation of chemists that are not scared to use the whole toolbox of techniques available to them,’ says Booker-Milburn.

Extra cash
Students at the new centres will be supported for four years, longer than the EPSRC’s usual 3.5 year funding allowance. In their first year they will follow a programme of taught coursework, with the intention of encouraging collaboration across scientific disciplines.

David Delpy, the EPSRC’s chief executive, said the money for the centres came from new UK government investment, and would not siphon cash from the traditional PhD funding mechanism (the doctoral training account, or DTA).

Matt Davidson, director of Bath University’s DTC for sustainable chemical technologies, says he doesn’t believe the scheme will turn traditional PhD students into second class citizens, as the benefits of having a DTC at a university will filter across to every student. 

Matt Wilkinson 

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